The Supreme Court Is About to Rule on SB1070. Will Anyone Care?

by Peter Spiro

The Supreme Court’s decision in the SB 1070 case is imminent (the only suspense now being whether it gets a separate-day release from the health care case).  I think the Court will split the difference, upholding key sections of the law, striking down others.  The safest money has it validating the “papers, please” provision of the law under which AZ law enforcement must make a determination of immigration status where there is reasonable suspicion that an alien is in the country illegally.  Whatever else the decision holds, that will be cause for SB1070 proponents and restrictionists to claim victory.

But will it make any difference?

A new survey from ImmigrationWorks, a centrist policy shop with a business-oriented take, suggests not. In last term’s Whiting decision, the Court decided the narrower question of whether states could require employers use e-Verify where the federal law made it optional only (narrow in substance but also in reasoning – the issue boiling down to the interpretation of a single clause in a 1986 federal immigration statute).  The Court gave state-mandated e-Verify the green light.

The number of states that added mandatory e-Verify laws in Whiting’s wake: 0.

So it’s possible we’ll witness the same phenomenon even if the Court upholds key provisions of SB 1070. I think in any case the number of states that move to take advantage of new-found constitutional discretion will be very low. If so, that’ll prove a much more significant victory for immigrants than a victory in the Supreme Court – a more durable political one that could mark the beginning of the end of this cycle of hostility against newcomers.

One Response

  1. What is to stop local governments across the country from immediately adopting SB 1070 type policies?

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